A recent study has shown that
microplastics, which are less than 5mm in size have contaminated all over the
world. The contamination has been found in UK lakes, rivers, underground water
of US, China rivers, Spain coasts etc. These have found to harbor harmful
microbes and cause gastroenteritis and wound infections. Other health effects
of their consumption on people are yet to be found. Analysis shows River Tame having
1000 small plastic pieces per liter and the remote places having 2 or 3 pieces
per liter. These plastics are mostly shed by vehicle tyres, plastic pellet
spillage, synthetic clothing and are carried away by rain or wind. Researchers
are working to uncover more details about them.
Setback for UK government – Fracking case
As a major setback to UK government’s plan
to make fracking easier the court called the fracking policy making unlawful as
it found it necessary to consider climate changes and other scientific
evidences in deciding the policy. In the case brought by anti-fracking
campaigners, judgment suggested that gas from fracking may not be considered as
low carbon fuel source. Besides clarifying that the government has not acted
responsibly, this also gives a guidance that objections to fracking on climate
change impact basis are to be considered at local planning level. The
government is expected to present its side of arguments on this.
crores fine for Volkswagen
The NGT (National Green Tribunal) has directed
it to pay auto major Volkswagen(VW) within 2 months Rs. 500 crores fine for
damaging the environment using cheat device in their diesel cars in India. In
November last year, the green panel had directed VW to pay Rs.100 crores
interim amount for environmental damages. The NGT recommended Rs.171.34 crores
as health damages fine for air pollution caused in Delhi due to vehicle
emissions. Volkswagen India had recalled 3.23 lakhs vehicles for violation of
emission norms. The tests by ARAI had shown the emissions from these vehicles
to be 1.1 to 2.6 times higher than BS-IV norms. However Volkswagen said that it
did not face any charges regarding violating emission norms in India, unlike in
production of Green crackers soon
Four months back, Supreme Court of India
banned manufacture of polluting firecrackers but allowed bursting of green
crackers and entrusted the task of formulating the their chemical composition
to CSIR and NEERI. Now CSIR and NEERI told the apex court that they have a
formula that reduces the PM2.5 pollutants by 25-30% minimum and claim to have
successfully tested light emitting fireworks in PESO presence. The approval for
this is anticipated by April end and bulk production is expected to start by
May. However a petition has been filed stating the green crackers still contain
barium, the usage of which was earlier opposed by the court. Court has asked
the center to file its response.
Upcoming elections, green elections?
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has in
its order asked Election Commission, Union Environment Ministry and Central
Pollution control board to take a call on usage of hazardous plastics in
banners, hoardings, etc for the upcoming general elections. India has committed
to completely phase out single-use plastics by 2022. These plastics are found
to pollute the soil and water causing impacts on human health and environment.
Gurgaon most polluted city in the world
Data compiled in IQAirVisual 2018 World Air
Quality Report reveals 5 Indian cities in the top 10 most polluted cities in
the world, with Gurgaon and Ghaziabad taking the first and second spot. Delhi
is in the 11th position. While the permissible PM2.5 limits set by
National Ambient Air Quality Standards and WHO are 40ug/m3 and
10ug/m3 respectively, the reading for Delhi for 2018 is 113.5 ug/m3.
The report stated that the average PM2.5 concentration for cities as a whole is
6 times more than the recommended limit.
Common contributors for PM2.5 pollution are vehicle exhaust, industry
emission, biomass burning, coal combustion.
Plastic import rules amended
In 2015, though the Indian government
banned plastics import, the following year it allowed imports carried by
agencies in Special economic zones (SEZ). This loophole resulted in increase in
PET bottle scrap and flakes imports from 12,000 tons in 2016-17 to 48000 tons
in the next year. The center has announced amended rules which prohibit solid
plastic waste import in India including in the SEZs. This amendment was made to
Hazardous and Other Waste (Management and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016.
8. 4% green buildings in India – new survey
A new study indicated that 4% of buildings
in India are green and found lack of technical expertise and funding for
improvements are barriers in improving percentage of green buildings. Creating
structures and using environmentally responsible and resource efficient
processes throughout the life cycle of the building is Green building concept.
The Survey conducted by Johnson Controls Building Technologies and Solutions
covered 20 countries and found the global average to be 14%. Survey indicated
that cities are looking to improve sustainability and environment while
reducing costs and improving public safety.
for Environmental compensation computation.
A special committee formed on NGT direction
has proposed a formula to calculate Environmental Compensation (EC) for
providing the pollution victims immediate relief as well as to fund long term
remedies. As per this formula, EC is a
multiple of industrial sector’s pollution index (PI), Days of pollution
violation (N), index representing scale of polluting plant operation, location
factor. In any case a compensation of Rs. 5000 per day to the victim is proposed.
However People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and environmental activists
say they are writing to CPCB to increase this to Rs 15000 and to also consider
ground water pollution and increase base factors so that enough amount could be
obtained for remediation.
Findings of University of Stirling have
confirmed that nurdles or tiny plastic beads in beaches, seas act as rafts
carrying harmful bacteria and there is danger of the pathogens carried over
large distances. These plastics protect the pathogens bound to them from the UV
rays which normally kill them. 90% nurdles from EU-designated beaches are found
to be contaminated with gastroenteritis causing ViIbrio and 45% from diarrhea
causing E Coli. While only these two bacteria are tested, presence of more
pathogens is expected. It is yet unknown if these microbial hitchhikers can
survive longer floating in the sea.
Modified house plants turn purifiers
A research by Stuart Strand, environmental
engineer at University of Washington and team showed simple DNA tweaks could
give plants ability to degrade air pollutants. They inserted a synthetic
version of rabbit gene into the Devil’s Ivy and found that the modified plant
could suck chloroform and benzene and turn them into harmless molecules. The
key is to bring as much air in contact with the plant. Further work is needed
to see if it can be modified to remove other such volatile organic compounds.
While this is appreciated by many, there are concerns over threats that these
modified plants could pose, so the team is conducting series of tests for check
this. These modified plants are expected to be available in US market within 2
years and maybe even sooner in Canada.
Public Bicycle Sharing system launched
Bengaluru’s full-fledged Public Bicycle
sharing system with 3000 bicylces was launched by Chief Minister HD
Kumaraswamy. The Trin Trin dockless bicycle sharing system comprises app-based
multiple private bicycle sharing operators renting bicycles at nominal prices
to public. 400 parking hubs in Bengaluru
have been identified by DULT (Directorate of Urban Land Transport) agency which
oversees the project. While this PBS offers hope to reduce pollution woes in
Bengaluru, most of the cyclists feel in the absence of dedicated lanes it would
be difficult to pedal through the congested roads.
based water bottles from Cove
Cove has come up with water bottles made of
PHA which is FDA approved biopolymer – 100% compostable. Cove says this will
break safely down in soil, fresh water, ocean but time taken would depend on
the things like humidity, temperature etc. Having done extensive testing Cove says
it will take around 5 years for this to biodegrade in soil. Cove says the shelf
life of these reusable bottles which work similar to regular plastic bottles is
6 months. Cove plans to launch them in California but it is not interested in
shipping them across continents.
revolutionary environmental scheme – 97% plastic bottles recycled.
Norwegian government’s environmental taxes
that reward environmentally friendly companies have helped in getting the
unbelievable success of the radical recycling program. Up to 97% of the plastic
bottles are now recycled. As per this, the producers and importers of plastic
bottles were charged around 40 cents per bottle environmental tax, which was
lowered and finally dropped when more than 95% was recycled. Customers also had
to pay mortgage for each bottle and they could get back coupons when they
deposited the used bottles in any of the mortgage machines. The scheme’s
success had made representatives from other countries visit to learn from this
Diesel from Plastic
An inventor from Southern France says he
has developed a machine called Chrysalis which when fed with plastic bits at
450 degree Celsius pyrolise it that is decompose it with high heat to give
liquid which is 65% diesel, 18% petrol, 10% gas, 7% carbon each of which is useful
for generators, powering lamps, heating and for crayons respectively. This
machine can presently give 1 litre of liquid fuel from 1 kg plastic. Plan is to
develop a larger version by mid-2019 which can give 40 liters of fuel in an
South Korea’s emergency social disaster handling plan
The recent record level fine dust that
blanketed most of South Korea has led to emergency measures taken to tackle the
social disaster set by air pollution. A series of bills were passed authorizing
emergency fund usage to install high capacity air purifiers, encourage LPG
vehicles, etc. Seven major cities hit record high concentration of PM2.5
particles, which pose serious health risks as per WHO. Emergency measures
introduced by Seoul earlier like limiting vehicle use, curbing coal power
plants, etc was not successful. South Korea has blamed China for 50-70% of the
fine dust pollution carried from Chinese region to Korean peninsula. However
China has rejected the claims asking South Korea to first check at home.
17. Setback to Kandi Road Project
In a setback to Kandi Road Project the NGT
banned the road construction passing through Corbett Tiger Reserve Core area.
This road was expected to reduce the journey time between Ramnagar and Kotdwar by
2 hours. The original plan approved by Supreme Court in 2005 did not include
this road. In 2017 the Uttarkhand government announced construction of road
through Corbett Tiger Reserve and approved 3.14 crores funds for study on the
project. An objection was raised against this proposed road stating the need to
keep the Corbett National park inviolate for tiger conservation purposes.
18. Urgent action needed to avoid deaths of
A report by 250 scientists and experts from over 70 countries states that drastic measures are to be taken for environmental protection else millions of premature deaths, child neurodevelopment impact, human fertility impact is possible. Report highlighted that the science, technology, finance are available, support from stakeholders is what is needed. At the fourth UN Environment Assembly many pressing issues including food wastage, plastic pollution are expected to be tackled. Urgent action is needed without further delay to achieve the Paris agreement goals. As per the report, it would be much more effective to have policy interventions addressing entire systems. According to the report policies and technologies are already present to give new development pathways for avoiding the risks and leading to healthy and prosperous life for all people.